Create a seamless mixtape with Audacity

I used to love making tapes for friends, but the onset of mp3s has made it a lost art form. Playlists just aren’t the same to me. I’m going to show you how to make an mp3 “mixtape” using a freeware audio editing program called Audacity. I used Audacity 1.3.6, which is a beta release, although using the older 1.2 version is the same as far as I can tell.

First, choose the mp3s you want on your mix. I recommend copying them all into a special folder, just to make sure you don’t mess up your originals! The next thing is choosing the order of play. You could do this in Audacity, but I find it easier to play about with the order in an iTunes playlist. Once you think your playlist looks good, it’s time to stick it together.


Open Audacity, close the welcome message, then from your special folder, drag and drop your first two tracks into Audacity. Choose the time shift tool, and drag the second track to around the end of the first. It should look something like this.


With my tracks, usefully, the first track faded out, and the next faded in, so I experimented with it until it sounded good. Usually you can get a nice effect just by choosing the right point to start the following track, but if it doesn’t work, you can create fade ins and outs by highlighting part of the track then going to ‘Effects’, ‘Utilities’ then choosing your fade.

Once you’re happy with the join between tracks, highlight both with the selection tool, go to ‘Tracks’, then click ‘Mix and Render’, which will blend the two tracks as you decided.


Now you have your first mix, you can continue to add more tracks repeating the above method. For my mix, the next track I chose was a much quieter recording than the first two, so it needed amplifying. To do this, simply highlight the whole track, go to ‘Effect’ again, then choose amplify. This tool isn’t great, as you can’t preview your results, but from experience, you’re unlikely to want to amplify more than 3.0db. Check the ‘allow clipping’ box, if you can’t then click the ‘OK’ button. You might need to experiment a bit to get the loudness of your tracks the same.


Eventually, you’ll be left with one long track (see left picture). Now you can export the mix as an MP3, which requires a tiny add-on to be downloaded, but Audacity will prompt you and take you through it. Unfortunately you can’t burn to CD with Audacity, though you can easily do that in iTunes and most media players, assuming your mix isn’t over 80 minutes long.


Using this cut and past method to stitch tracks together is surprisingly easy once you’re used to it, and there are some interesting effects you can add, and you could also add snippets of spoke word from films and TV easily, or even your own voice, as Audacity will record any external sound source you plug into your computer (like a microphone), and once recorded you can treat the snippet like any other file.


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